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Scientists from Southern Illinois University have identified a third US variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 — and it may be the most contagious strain yet, researchers said Thursday.
The homegrown mutation, dubbed 20C-US, is believed to be responsible for up to 50 percent of all US cases — hitting the Midwest the hardest, researchers said in a press release.
“It’s here. We found it,” said Keith Gagnon, an associate professor of biochemistry at SIU Carbondale. “It’s definitely home-grown and widespread.”
Gagnon said he and his team traced the strain back to Texas, where it first appeared in May.
The mutation has a keen ability to process viral proteins along with strong “RNA genome integrity,” the researchers said — making it frighteningly efficient at spreading.
“It might be more easily transmissible than other variants, and its impact on vaccines is uncertain,” the press release states.
The findings come a day after scientists at Ohio State University said they discovered a different strain of the COVID-19 virus — which carries a mutation similar to the UK strain.
The results of the 20C-US study were published in the online journal bioRxiv.org on Wednesday.
“We predict that 20C-US may already be the most dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the US,” the article states.
“The ongoing evolution of 20C-US, as well as other dominant region-specific variants emerging around the world, should continue to be monitored.”
Thankfully, the virus variant likely hasn’t spread significantly beyond US borders, according to the report.
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